Tohoku Future Leaders Summit 2011

Video Highlights
 The summit was established to target young people who were victims of the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami but have strong ambitions to overcome their challenges and become active citizens with a global perspective. The students created a proposal for the recovery of the Tohoku region, working in groups with support from advisors, a select group of professionals who are leaders in their respective fields. Each student group presented its proposal to an audience of leaders from areas such as politics, business administration, media, and NGOs. Furthermore, as the summit spanned multiple days, the students had the opportunity to discuss and explore career goals with invited experts from fields such as sports, music and arts. The goal of this summit was to offer a starting point for the student participants to fully realize their potential as influential citizens who can shape society. BEYOND Tomorrow strongly believes that because of their difficult experiences during the disaster, these students have a unique ability to empathize and identify with others, and we hope that with this summit they were able to reflect on how they can use this ability to fill an active role in society and how to convert these ideas into actions.

Create a proposal

  • Topic A:Reviving industry – how to revitalize Tohoku through business and work
  • Topic B:Disaster prevention – building a safe city
  • Topic C:Victim Support

In the morning of Day 2, the students were asked to develop plans for Tohoku’s future.

 “Suppose you are formally acknowledged by Minister Furukawa, the Minister of National Strategy, as members of the Tohoku Revival teams. The mission of the teams is to create tangible project proposals that would help revive the Tohoku region, following the devastating effects of the Great East Japan Earthquake. In teams you have to meet the objective of creating proposals that could realistically be achieved, with the expectation that team members would commit to the management of the projects for a full year. ”

Three different themes were outlined for the projects: Tohoku revitalization, disaster prevention and victim support. Each team created proposals based on the category to which they were assigned.

  1. Revitalizing the work and business industries of Tohoku. Teams assigned to this category were encouraged to identify the business sectors that have been struggling. Based on what they determined, teams went on to create business proposals that would bring life and energy back into the region and establish Tohoku as an entrepreneurial hub.
  2. Disaster Prevention Teams created proposals that would help the local populace of Tohoku feel more secure, by considering what safety measures could be implemented in order to minimize the damaging effects of potential tsunamis and earthquakes.
  3. Victim support For this category teams deliberated over what sort of aid and support the victims of the Great East Japan Earthquake needed, or benefited from, the most. Their proposals envisioned plans that would provide the most effective aid to all victims, whilst considering the fact that the specific needs for individuals would undoubtedly vary.

The united voice of the people of Tohoku

  • Whilst the people of Tohoku are extremely grateful for the compassionate efforts of the volunteers, they maintain that volunteering is not always synonymous with being helpful; really effective volunteering comes from volunteers being thoughtful about what the real needs of the victims are. For example, hair dressers who lost their entire businesses and tools to the earthquake disaster could not fully appreciate the work of those volunteers who offered hair-dressing services to victims. For the local hairdressers, those volunteers inevitably became competitors who had an unfair advantage over them because they had tools.
  • During the disaster mobile phones and electronic bulletin boards stopped working all together, and it was impossible for people to get in touch with family members in order ascertain their well-being. Having experienced this, people now realise the extreme importance of having alternative ways to re-group and get in touch with one another, in the event of another disaster.
  • Although temporary housing has been constructed, they are not long-term solutions to the problem of housing. Problems with regards to employment, food and the even distribution of aid are outstanding as well.
  • Tohoku desperately needs to develop an environment that encourages the youth to return. The establishment of employment opportunities and better hospitals also needs to be on the agenda. Furthermore, the maintenance of social ties amongst the population of Tohoku and a sense of community ought to be a high priority.
  • There are many rumors that address the danger of products from areas close to the nuclear power plant. As a result, fruits are returned, and people are damaging cars with license plates from Fukushima. Something must be done immediately to solve this issue.
  • With too many differing views and a lack of cohesive communication amongst the victims, decisive action and leadership are vital at this point.
  • Too many people are becoming passive about organization, so public discourse and the amalgamation of ideas ought to take place. Furthermore, the problem of youth leaving Tohoku would be best addressed by the youth themselves.
  • Many people find it difficult to think of strategies to revive Tohoku in the long-term, since short-term goals have not been outlined.
  • The region needs to focus on building a safe and barrier free environment, particularly for the physically disabled. Furthermore, awareness and pre-emptive preparations regarding potential tsunamis and earthquakes must be raised.

Interview with experts on Tohoku revitalization

 Having the chance to talk with some of the leading experts on reviving Tohoku, professionals with real-world experiences in reconstructing all relevant sectors, was a wonderful opportunity for the students to expand their perspective and develop realistic project plans. Each team questioned and interviewed experts from the categories to which they were assigned. With the most pertinent knowledge and skills to share, the professionals responded to the enthusiastic questions and helped the students envision their plans both realistically and effectively. They differentiated the necessary from the unhelpful, the doable from the futile, with articulate and encouraging support.  It was invigorating to see the eager and looks on all of the students faces, as they all tried to fit in one more question and develop a deeper understanding of the situation and their projects. Even after the interview session was over, the students mingled around the professionals, waiting to hear what else they could learn.

TopicA Reviving industry – how to revitalize Tohoku through business and work

 Retsu Fujisawa Chief Director, General Incorporated Association RCF Reconstruction Support Team A graduate of Hitotsubashi University, Fujisawa had significant experience working for McKinsey & Company before going on to independently consult for ventures and entrepreneurs. Immediately following the earthquake disaster, he initiated a project that connected victims with NPOs. He gathered data from 400 refuge centers within the Miyagi prefecture, in order to collaborate with the local NPOs and the media. He has founded the revival assistance team and works on related administration and education projects for the victims. Since March 2011, he has also been assigned a position as a member of government headquarters for monitoring NPO aid and relief.

Students Notes:

  • Following the establishment of temporary housing in May, in order to approach the matter of rebuilding the livelihoods of the victims, a network amongst the victims and reconstruction teams must be powered and an appeal to the local governing body presented.
  • With the assistance of financial aid for the purpose of rebuilding, a special focus needs to be made on the fishing industry, particularly with regards to repairing and building boats and other fishing facilities.
  • For revitalization to take place in the most innovative and effective manner, projects must address the people of Tohoku and the needs of the region as a whole. The voices of civilians are the best sources of information, and they must be the central focus. Furthermore, issues must be approached with long-term solutions on top of short-term activities.

Students Notes:

Q: How should we overcome the effects of rumours and prejudices? A: As opposed to focusing solely on how to overcome rumours, you must think in terms of the big picture; think about ways to shed positive light on Japan and its prefectures. Q: We realise that strong leadership is needed in order to rebuild and revitalize Tohoku, but what are your thoughts on youths as leaders? A: I would like the youth to maintain a clear distinction between a “manager” and a “leader.” A manager faces you and gives you instructions. Leaders turn their backs towards you and start walking forward. You are encouraged to follow them because they have conviction in what they are doing and are not afraid to take the first, bold step forward.

Topic B Disaster prevention – building a safe city

 Satoru Nishikawa Director of Land and Real Property Market Division, MLIT Japan Originally from Kanagawa prefecture, Nishikawa graduated from the department of engineering in Tokyo University and completed his Master’s degree before entering the Japanese Land Agency. Working on projects centering on land development, he also focused his skills on developing the metropolis of Nagoya before accepting a position as a guest researcher at MIT. In 1989 he began work on developing disaster prevention enterprises and disaster prevention in foreign countries, as a representative of the Japanese Land Agency. Between 1992 and 1995, he served as the head of emergency aid operations for the U.N. Upon his return to Japan, he worked on various projects that included long term planning for Japan’s water resources and the reshuffling of the central government offices of Japan. Following this he became the head of the center of disaster prevention for Asia, and official councillor on disaster prevention for the cabinet during the earthquake disaster of Niigata Prefecture in 2004, and the Indian Ocean Earthquake and Tsunami. In 2005 he organized the UN disaster prevention global conference and as a professor of engineering, he has also been an active participant in the World Economic Forum.

Students’ Notes:

  • Disaster prevention can be effectively achieved through the collaboration between humanity and nature. The weaker a society is in facing unpredictable natural phenomena, the greater the risk of damage from natural disasters.
  • Japan has a high occurrence of earthquakes relative to the rest of the world. After the damaging effects of the Isewan Typhoon, post-war Japan began investing in disaster prevention measure, which has been helpful to this day.
  • It is very important to study maps carefully and appreciate the descriptive names that our ancestors left for us, which reveal the characteristics of terrains.

Students’ Notes:

Q: What is safety and security? A: The answer varies depending on whose safety you are taking into consideration. Always clearly identify whose safety you are targeting first and foremost; thereafter, in order to implement effective safety measures, you must differentiate between measures that will cost money and those which will not. Q: Since the media has failed to honestly report the sentiments and issues of the local civilians, what can be done to change this? A: Indeed, the government and other establishments of authority do have the tendency to control what is distributed via the media. In light of this, it is important for the public to take action and voice their sentiments which they feel are not adequately expressed.

Topic C Victim Support

 Miyako Hamasaka JEN Manager, External Relations Originally from Kyoto, Ms. Hamazaka worked for three years in the entrepreneurial sector before moving to Singapore and establishing her own public relations firm. She returned to Tokyo in 2006 and joined JEN, Inc. as a public relations manager. In 2007 she headed the public relations for a team that worked on reviving Niigata, and following that she went to Pakistan to head a video research project. In 2009 she entered her current position to head public and media relations. Immediately following the earthquake disaster in March, she headed a program that distributed aid material to victims. During the months of March and April, she was responsible for the successful execution of projects in Ishinomaki, particularly with regards to the distribution of aid.

Students’ Notes:

Q: How do you rank types of aid, in order of importance?
  • This question is an extremely important one to ask and, at the same time, it is also a difficult one to provide answers to. What is vital is to avoid providing redundant aid, however, there are times when the provision of aid doesn’t go as well as one would like.
  • Since it is very difficult to attain specific, minute details, as a general rule of thumb, you should avoid distributing aid outside of refuge centres or large meeting spots.
  • Since the damages are generally so large, it is very difficult for aid to function efficiently from the top down. NGOs also struggle to maintain accurate communication with the whole picture. As a result, a good structure would be to have NGOs functioning as the communication link between the government and victims.

Comments from the lecturer

“Taking heed of the fact that my audience were high school students, I removed a few slides from my original presentation. I was pleasantly shocked to find that during the Q/A session, the students proceeded to address all the contents on the slides that I had removed. They were all extremely sharp and held impressive opinions. It really made me realise that these students, having experienced the damaging effects first hand, have an incredible capacity to consider what Tohoku needs and how to revitalize their home region. I am so excited to see what proposals they will create as a result.”

Final presentations

 70 students built a strong community with one another, shared ideas and worked as teams for challenging three days. Drawing on their own experiences, whilst tirelessly representing the voices of so many, they endeavoured to listen to the advice of experts and create proposals that would envision a strong future for the Tohoku region. What the students finally presented at the end of the weekend impressed and astounded us all. Each team had four minutes to present their proposals formally to the audience and a panel of judges. Two teams were respectively awarded the “Grade A” prize and a prize for excellence, for having the most impressively thought-out and structured proposals and presentations. The slides from team 10’s presentation, the winner for the Grade A prize, have been included here. All team proposals will be presented to Minister of National Strategy Furukawa as suggestions for what can be initiated in Tohoku.

Survivors’ Stories

 What actually happened on the 11th March 2011? As the time for the sharing of experiences began and the participating students listened intently to each other’s stories, the atmosphere of the room dramatically changed. Everyone squeezed out their words with great sincerity, and they were taken very seriously. Hearing other perspectives that many realized they hadn’t even imagined until now, tears were shed over the experiences of their peers. It was as if one could hear the switch being flipped on in every single person. On the first day, expressions, actions and attitudes that were almost unimaginable all completely naturally materialized.  Each individual’s story, and the bonds that were created through spending this time together, became the foundation and the start for this three day program.
Speech content is displayed when you click a photo
On the 11th March, I was painfully exposed to the terror of a major disaster. On that day, before my very eyes, I saw the town I knew extremely well utterly annihilated in seconds by an enormous tsunami. The wave encroached the town center carrying a huge volume of sand with it, and shortly after the town was shrouded in sand and smoke. All around me were elementary school students crying whilst evacuating and adults frozen to the spot. The scene was like something out of a terrible nightmare. In my hometown of Rikuzentakata, around 1800 people fell victim to the disaster. My parents were no exception. I visited many different mortuaries, and all of the bodies were black and blue from bruising, and swollen from inhalation of water. There were also people who’d lost parts of their bodies. It was difficult to find my mother and father, as their bodies were covered in injuries leaving them changed from their original appearance. When I saw what they looked like, I was overcome with this terrible sadness, but it soon disappeared. My everyday life had become so tough, that I really had no leeway to allow myself to feel sad indefinitely. However within these terrible circumstances, there was help not only from within Japan but also from countries around the world. Thanks to this help, many of us are still here today. In August, I finally had the opportunity to express my appreciation. I was selected as a representative of the disaster victims to act as a High School Student Messenger of Peace, visiting the United Nations European Headquarters.  There, I conveyed my heartfelt gratitude for the help received, and expressed the determination to achieve recovery. I also drew attention to the necessity of disaster prevention and the paramount importance of international cooperation, which I realized through my experiences of the earthquake. I think these activities must surely have given courage to the disaster areas.  In the future too, I want to continue communicating with the world as one of the disaster victims. Currently, the reestablishment of the town has been completed, and we are now moving towards recovery. However, the fact of the matter is that there are still many issues that are yet to be tackled. One example is the employment problem. Many people lost their place of work, and have now fallen into financial difficulty. A friend of mine’s mother took her own life for this very reason. Until we break through these problems, the future of the devastated areas will remain bleak. My goal is to become in the position where I can lead the way for the recovery of the disaster areas. I want to guide the town back to having its former spark of life. For this purpose we young people must take a stand and take responsibility for the future of the disaster areas. To the full extent of my ability I want to try my hardest to help the movement towards recovery happen as quickly as possible. At this Tohoku Future Leaders Summit, I’ve had the opportunity to create a proposal along with other like-minded high school students. Thanks to various discussions I have had with the proposal advisers active in many different avenues, the breadth of my thinking has expanded and it has become clearer to us all as to what we can actually do. I want to make the most of the positive outcomes of this Summit, and I hope to exercise leadership in various areas and standpoints from here on.
March 11th. On that day, due to the fact I had only had morning classes, I was already with my mother in Minami Sanriku at the time the earthquake struck. It was bigger than anything I had ever experienced before, to the extent that the surface of the ground started to crack, so it was easy to predict a tsunami would probably follow. As a result, me and my mother evacuated to a junior high school on higher ground that had been designated as an evacuation shelter. My house and the whole area I lived in was swallowed in its entirety by the ocean in no time at all. But mere moments after the shock and sense of powerlessness had kicked in the wave began to swell, and in less than a minute it was bearing down on us as well even though we were on high ground, sweeping telephone poles and cars along with it. Frantically we began to run, trying desperately to scale the slope but failing to do so, and in an instant both me and my mother were enveloped by the wave. The muddy water was pitch-black so you couldn’t see a thing, and the pressure of the water so great that you couldn’t move your arms or legs at all. At first I somehow managed to withstand not breathing, but I quickly ran out of air and started swallowing large amounts of the water, and I began preparing myself to die.  But then my body got sandwiched between a roof and a car and I was able to make it to the surface of the water – it was a true miracle. However being unable to find my mother to this day, I can’t find even the tiniest bit of joy in the fact that only I was saved. On that day, my mother had suggested we go to the shopping center, and had we done so perhaps she might have been saved. Or maybe if we had fled in a different direction when the tsunami struck, she could have been saved. Or perhaps even being swept away in the same manner, if I had managed to grab onto the clothes of my mother who had been standing less than a meter away she might have survived.  My sense of regret only grows as I vividly remember the events of that day and that time, and think about how if only I had done this or that differently. My beloved mother, who was my biggest supporter and sympathizer, who I adored up until now and will adore forever more, is already gone. My dream of being her devoted daughter is already something I cannot achieve. Up until now there has been no place for high school students to seriously engage, treat, think about and debate issues relating to the disaster with each other. It is because of this, and because of the opportunity to meet other people with similar or perhaps even worse experiences with whom I can share my thoughts, that I decided to take part in this Summit. The discussions and presentations of these three days are pretty much exactly what I’ve been hoping for, and the Summit has also surpassed my expectations in terms of how enjoyable it was. On top of this, I also received a lot of motivation from being gathered with a group of people who all had a strong desire to actually do something positive. I think I would like to create a place where young people like me who have lost their parents can get together. I would like to share this feeling and create a place where people can receive the strength to move forwards. In participating in the BEYOND Tomorrow project, I have been able to renew my strong wish to take part in whatever small way with the recovery efforts. My father is an emergency medical technician, and I have had an interest in medicine since a young age. Having also now experienced this terrible disaster, I strongly feel I would also like to pursue some kind of medical-related career. In the future, I want to become a nationally qualified clinical engineer and work in a hospital in Miyagi, and by making myself helpful to others establish the significance of my own existence.
March 11th was my middle school graduation day. It was the day that my classmates of 10 years were to begin embarking on a new journey, a day that was meant to remain as a happy memory. The earthquake hit when I came home. It was a level of shaking that I had never felt before. The earthquake cut our power, so I was not able to receive information through the television. By the time I heard there was a tsunami coming and started to evacuate, it was already too late — I heard a ground-shaking boom, and in an instant my family and I were swallowed whole by the tsunami, along with my house. As I was being swept away with the rubble and black water, thoughts rushed through my head: “This is it. I’m going to die.” “I wish I had the chance to wear my high school uniform.” After being swept away for a while with the rubble, I heard my mother calling my name from underneath the debris. When I cleared away the rubble, I found my mother, pierced by nails and tree limbs, and a broken leg. Her right leg was stuck, and even though I tried my best to clear the debris, it was too heavy and too big. I wanted to save my mother, but I knew that staying there I would be swept away again by the tsunami. Do I stay and save my mother? Or do I run to safety? I chose my own life. It was a decision that makes me cry to this day. When I left my mother I told her many times, Thank you, and I love you. It was the most difficult moment of my life to turn away from my mother who implored to me, “Don’t leave me.” There was so much more I wanted to tell her. But I had to leave; I swam to my lower school and spent the night there. There were many, many more difficult experiences after that moment. There were days that were so difficult that I thought of dying. There were days that I wondered why life is so cruel, and I cannot even begin to count the number of times I cried thinking about my family. Through this tsunami, I lost so much of my life. But there are things that I have gained through this experience. And I believe that the more effort I put into it, the more I can gain. People may look at me and  pity me, but that is not how I see myself. I have a loving grandmother and grandfather. I have friends who are very supportive. I have opportunities now because I have gone through this tragedy. I am confident that I am able to overcome any challenge life may throw at me. And I am able to understand other who have also suffered a great loss. This is why in the future I hope to help other children who went through similar travesties. I would also like to participate in international volunteering organizations to give back to all the countries that helped Japan in this time of need. I know that there will be many more challenges ahead in life. But I want to stay proactive, finding the ways in which I can help others so that I can give back as much as, if not more than, what I have lost.
We residents of Fukushima Prefecture are currently in very trying times. The Great East Japan Earthquake wreaked great damage, but for the people of Fukushima there is also a huge problem on top of this which is the radioactive contamination from the accident at TEPCO’s Fukushima Daiichi power plant. In particular, the thoughtless rumours about Fukushima are for me personally very hurtful. For example, I have heard that peaches produced in Fukushima for use as gifts have been immediately returned despite the fact safety checks for the levels of radiation have been carried out. It’s not just the fact that we ourselves have to live in fear of the dangers of radiation, but it’s also the way in which certain other people in Japan seem to propagate this idea that people in Fukushima are at fault for spreading radiation to other prefectures, and this makes me incredibly sad. We are working hard to live in Fukushima. We are making a united and concerted effort for the recovery of this prefecture and a revival of its pre-accident branding of “beautiful Fukushima”. I really want people both in Japan and worldwide to understand this aspect of Fukushima. I want people to become supporters of Fukushima and to warmly watch over us with a sense of having some kinds of emotional tie. I want people to not be afraid to come and see this form. I want people to be aware of Fukushima’s current situation. And I want people to cooperate with the decontamination process. From summer next year, I will study abroad in Switzerland for one year. While I am away, I want to act as a high school ambassador passionately communicating the truth about Fukushima, the decontamination efforts, the serious considerations for recovery and the amazing energy and efforts being made to overcome the difficulties. This, I wonder, is what I can currently do to contribute to Fukushima’s recovery. We experienced this terrible disaster in Tohoku, but we can’t just let ourselves lament that we are unhappy. I am grateful for all the support we have received from people, and I want to move forwards even though we might be sad, recover energy even though it might be tough, and discover my goals and hopes and start progressing towards my dreams. I believe that to have hopes and dreams and to work towards the regeneration of Tohoku with our youthful energy is our mission as Tohoku Future Leaders.
As a result of the earthquake disaster, my own home town of Kesennuma received a catastrophic level of damage. Included in this damage was the swimming club which I attended, and so I lost the place I had to go swimming. Deprived of the swimming I had done continuously for 13 years and at a loss without it, I was by luck contacted by the Kanagawa University Swimming Club through the internet, and I left my family in my hometown of Kesennuma and now live in Kanagawa prefecture. I was therefore able to continue the swimming that I had been at one point about to give up, and 6 months after the disaster, having achieved 7th place in the Kanagawa Prefecture All High School Swimming Competition, I made my debut in the regional Kanto Competition. In September, as the Miyagi Prefecture representative at the National Athletics Meet held in Yamaguchi Prefecture, I managed to achieve a good result of 12th place whilst also setting a new personal best. My dream is to go on to University and become the best swimmer in Japan. If I can continue to proceed forwards through my own hard endeavor to achieve results, I think it will help to pick up the spirits of the devastated area in Kesennuma and repay those people and the area instrumental in raising me, so I am devoting myself to training hard every day. I want to overcome that disaster, find my life’s purpose, and help revitalize Tohoku. I decided to participate in this Tohoku Future Leaders Summit because I thought the gathering together of we high school students from the three affected prefectures and the enabling of us to share our experiences of the disaster was a good opportunity. Since the disaster, I have been helped by countless numbers of people to get to where I am today. I believe that this is thanks to the fact my mother, father and siblings have always really valued links with other people, and so we all helped each other out. I also think that to have been selected as a participant at this Leaders Summit and to have connected with these other young people I’ve met is also a miracle in itself. In actually participating in this Leaders Summit, I have also talked with people who have been affected by the nuclear accident as well as by the earthquake and tsunami, and my desire to play a role in recovery from the disaster has even further increased. Furthermore, through team discussions and the formulation of a concrete project plan under the theme of helping victims of the disaster, I have been able to spend this time even more meaningfully than I had anticipated. From here on, I want to put into practice the plan that I formulated with my team.

Media Coverage

TV 「NEWS23Cross」(2011/11/11 TBS)
News Papers “Proposed recovery of Tohoku  Recruiting  high school students in 3 prefectures” (2011/10/12 Yomiuri Newspapers)
“Tohoku teens share views of survival”(2011/11/10 JAPAN TIMES)
“Tohoku teens search recovery of Tohoku” (2011/10/10 The Kahoku Shimpo)
”Application for a meeting of future leaders in Tohoku “(2011/10/10 Iwate Nippo)
“Application for high school students” (2011/10/12 Sanriku Sinpo)
” Meeting of future leaders in Tohoku  Application for participants till 14″ (2011/10/12 Iwaki Minpo)
”Application for high school students who want to share Tohoku earthquake”(2011/10/13 Fukushima Minyu)
WEB “Leadership Development Business”Tohoku Future Leaders Summit” will be held on” (2011/10/14 LOVE&HOPE~human・care・project~)
“Support information:Scholar ship”(2011/10/03 Newspapers))

The success of the event would not have been possible without cooperation of a number of organizations and individuals
Supporters Cabinet Office Ministry of Education,Culture,Sports,Science and Technology
Message from prefectural governors Fukushima Prefecture Iwate Prefecture Miyagi Prefecture
Partner The Fund for the Future of Children affected by the Great East Japan Earthquake
Sponsors CLSA FedEx Kinko’s Japan Gulliver International Co.,Ltd Mitsubushi Heavy Industries,Ltd、 ROHTO Pharmaceutical Co.Ltd Takeda Pharmaceutical Company Limited
Film Production Kobe Design University infoGuild
Design Ayako Nakagawa